Terminology

Q: Can you review some basic terms used on your site?

A: Sure!

Screen Printing - the technique of pushing ink through open areas of a screen so that an image or pattern is printed onto a substrate.

Silk screening - often used synonymously with screen printing, silk screening or silk screen printing is a much older term. Previously, silk was mainly used as a raw material in the manufacturing of the mesh.  Today, mesh is typically made of more durable, synthetic fibers such as polyester. Even so, the phrase has stuck and is used mainly by older generations. It is similar to using the phrase “making a xerox” when referring to making a copy of something.

Emulsion - a light-sensitive substance that hardens when exposed to UV light. SmallDogPrints' emulsion is orange. For ease of use, our emulsion has already been applied to a stretched mesh fabric. Since all emulsion is light-sensitive, it ships in a light protective baggie. 

WARNING: All handling of Emulsion on Mesh Film before exposure should be done with yellow or red, safe lights on in a darkened room. Only when the Emulsion on Mesh Film has been made into a screen stencil is it safe to turn on regular UV lighting. May cause an allergic skin reaction and/or serious eye irritation. Wear protective gloves and eye/face protection.

Mesh - a thin, light-weight material made of a network of polyester threads woven together.

TPI (Threads Per Inch) - a.k.a. “thread count” or “mesh count” this refers to the number of threads used per inch of fabric. For example, a 110 TPI would have 110 threads crossing per square inch. 110 is typically used in screen printing as it is the least expensive fabric and is widely available. Even so, SmallDogPrints uses a mesh with a higher TPI.  A higher TPI means finer holes & therefore the ability to achieve finer details in designs. Our mesh allows artists to achieve a high level of detail while still having the ability to push mica powders, thickened underglazes, metallic inks, etc. through the openings. It's the perfect balance between detail and function!  In addition, a higher thread count provides a tighter weave which is more durable and produces thin, pliable screens that conform nicely to a variety of substrates including curved surfaces.

Substrate - artists’ term for the underlying material on which other materials are applied. SmallDogPrints’ screen stencils can print on a variety of substrates including: polymer clay, ceramics, fabric, paper, glass, metal, wood, foam, felt, etc.

Exposure - the process of using artificial light or sunlight to shine on film in order to bake emulsion onto mesh. The areas of emulsion that are protected by black images/lettering will not bake. Rather, these areas of emulsion will wash out and become the open areas of your design in your finished screen stencil.

Screen Stencil - product made with our Emulsion on Mesh Film. Open areas in the emulsion reveal the mesh alone and these mesh openings form desired shapes/letters a.k.a. the design. Screen stencils can be used to print on substrates by the application of ink or paint through the mesh openings.

Viscosity - term used to describe the thickness or consistency of a medium (ie. ink, paint, underglaze, etc.). Generally speaking, when printing with screen stencils, thicker, more viscose mediums produce prints with the cleanest, crispest lines. The viscosity of the medium used should resemble the consistency of mayonnaise or even paste. There are many methods & products available which can help to thicken various mediums. For example, simply leaving a small portion of acrylic ink out & uncovered overnight can help some of the moisture to simply evaporate. Other artists use small amounts of corn starch and blend very well as a simple thickening agent.

For thickening agents available for purchase, check out Liquitex's line of thickening agents including Liquitex Liquithick Thickening Gel Professional Effects Medium for acrylics (available here on Amazon). To thicken underglaze for ceramics, my favorite is this Mayco Silkscreen Medium (available here at Blick Art Supplies). When screen printing on glass, this Colorline Silk Screen Paste is pre thickened and produces great results right out of the tub! You can find it here at bullseyeglass.com. Here's a Youtube tutorial for it.


PRODUCT

Q: What types of designs are best to print on the textured side of transparencies?

A: Using artwork with high resolution is very important. 

When getting free clip art online it is best to use .svg files (ie: .pdf  / .ai / .eps / .svg). These are considered vector artwork and will allow the user to resize or rescale the image without hurting the resolution of the design.

Also, printing images with the darkest resolution using 100% black ink always make screen stencils with the cleanest, crispest edges and best details.  Either hand draw artwork on the textured side of transparencies with a black oil based paint marker OR use your ink jet or laser printer set to the highest, darkest resolution possible.  Remember, the black print on transparencies is what blocks your light source from baking the emulsion on film. Therefore, the black print needs to be dark enough to block any UV light from going through these areas. To experiment with this, try going over some areas of a printed transparency with a black, oil based paint marker making some sections EXTREMELY dark while leaving other areas just normal print.  After exposure when you are "washing out" the screen, you will notice that the areas that had the darkest ink will wash out the quickest and have the cleanest edges.  Again, printing with the DARKEST INK possible on your transparency is important to adequately block the exposure light from "baking" the emulsion on film.

If you want to convert your image to a high resolution vector and don’t know how, consider using Fiverr. This is an online platform which connects people with freelance services in less than five minutes starting at $5 bucks. In their search box type “convert image to vector” and then select from any number of artists. They will convert and email your file back to you.

Q: Can I use my professional or DIY light table or other artificial light kit that I already own/made to expose film/artwork?

A: Our artists have reported that many artificial tube lights & other light and bulb arrangements have worked for them with amazing results. The problem is that there are simply too many variables for us to list. If deviating from our recommended CFL bulb or YUDU, artists will need to consider the types of bulbs being used, their exposure times and the distance the film/artwork sits from their light source when they are testing it. In general, broad spectrum DAYLIGHT bulbs (5000K - 6500K) are the most effective. It is also important to have fluorescent tubes or bulbs (i.e. CFL bulbs), black light fluorescent tubes or bulbs or LED tubes or bulbs with a UV rating in nanometers between 340-395 nanometers AND the highest wattage possible (i.e. 30 - 40 watts). 

Many artists with DIY professional light tables have given this 1000bulbs black light fluorescent tube a high rating for use in exposing our Emulsion on Mesh Film. Keep in mind, exposure times will vary depending on the number of tubes used as well as their distance from the film/artwork. A good start would be 4 of these bulbs sitting 3" away from film/artwork and exposing for @ 13 - 15 min.) Don't forget to allow film to soak in luke warm water for about 10 min. in a darkened room before wash out! :)

WARNING: Care should be taken to NEVER use any electrical device in or around water.

WARNING: All handling of Emulsion on Mesh Film before exposure should be done with yellow or red, safe lights on in a darkened room. Only when the Emulsion on Mesh Film has been made into a screen stencil is it safe to turn on regular UV lighting. May cause an allergic skin reaction and/or serious eye irritation. Wear protective gloves and eye/face protection.

Q: Why are there some areas where too much emulsion washed out of my screens and therefore I lost some wanted details (ie insides of letters, etc.)

A: If too much emulsion and details wash away, the film has been underexposed (i.e. undercooked and not baked long enough). Artists should consider INCREASING the amount of exposure time and/or decreasing the distance their bulb(s) sit(s) from the film/artwork.

Keep in mind . . . this is the problem we hear about most frequently - the most frequent cause is underexposing film (i.e. undercooking).

*PLEASE NOTE - SMALLDOGPRINTS FILM USUALLY TAKES MUCH LONGER TO EXPOSE (w/ AVERAGE BULBS 13-15 MIN. & YUDU 4-5 MIN.) THAN THE COMPETITION BECAUSE WE COAT OUR MESH WITH MORE EMULSION THAN OTHERS. ALTHOUGH THIS IS A MORE COSTLY METHOD, THICKER SCREEN STENCILS WILL PROVIDE PRINTS THAT HAVE THICKER, RICHER INK DEPOSITS WHEN USED FOR PRINTING. WE HAPPEN TO THINK IT'S WORTH IT AND HOPE YOU DO TOO!

WARNING: Care should be taken to NEVER use any electrical device in or around water.

WARNING: All handling of Emulsion on Mesh Film before exposure should be done with yellow or red, safe lights on in a darkened room. Only when the Emulsion on Mesh Film has been made into a screen stencil is it safe to turn on regular UV lighting. May cause an allergic skin reaction and/or serious eye irritation. Wear protective gloves and eye/face protection.

Q: Why are there areas where some of the emulsion did not rinse out of my screen even though I softly and thoroughly sponged/sprayed it during development?

A: When developing film into a screen stencil, emulsion should quickly rinse off the design areas with a gentle sponge and/or sink sprayer. Artists should not feel that they need to “scrub” or “fight” to develop screens at all. If not enough emulsion washes away & it is difficult to see through areas of the design that should be open, the film has been overexposed (i.e. overcooked and baked too long). Artists should consider decreasing the amount of exposure time and/or increasing the distance their bulb(s) sits from the artwork/film.

WARNING: Care should be taken to NEVER use any electrical device in or around water.

WARNING: All handling of Emulsion on Mesh Film before exposure should be done with yellow or red, safe lights on in a darkened room. Only when the Emulsion on Mesh Film has been made into a screen stencil is it safe to turn on regular UV lighting. May cause an allergic skin reaction and/or serious eye irritation. Wear protective gloves and eye/face protection.

Q: Can I cut film to smaller sizes before exposing?

A: Yes but make sure to handle film in a darkened room with only a yellow or red safe light on to see. An alternative idea is to create an 8.5” x 11” sheet of artwork with various small images on it but separated by fine lines. After you have created your sheet of screen stencils and it is dry, you can simply cut them apart using the fine lines as guides.  Make sure to keep at least a half inch border around each design so that you can hold or tape your finished screen stencil to your substrate as well as leaving room for ink to pool at the edges of a screen stencil.

Q: Can I soak, develop or clean more than one at a time?

A: Sure! SmallDogPrints does not have one side with a dedicated “sticky back” so multiple sheets of film can soak together either in your black developing box (making sure not to crease your film), or in a sink as long as enough water allows them to float on top of each other and the stack is covered by your black board. While sponging to develop a screen stencil, just make sure the others stay covered by the black board until it’s their turn to be developed! For the same reasons, after printing, multiple screens can be placed together in water to soak, awaiting cleaning.

Q: How long should film soak after exposure? How long should I softly sponge/spray film to develop my screen stencil?

After exposure, film should soak in lukewarm water for about 10 min in our black developing box or in a sink with floating film covered by a black board. Softly sponge/spray the film with cool water for about 30-60 seconds to develop your screen stencil. Continuing beyond this point may inadvertently wash away wanted areas or details in your design ie. centers of letters, etc.  It is helpful to have a yellow or red safe light bulb to see if all the design areas have indeed washed out before finishing with developing.

WARNING: Care should be taken to NEVER use any electrical device in or around water.

WARNING: All handling of Emulsion on Mesh Film before exposure should be done with yellow or red, safe lights on in a darkened room. Only when the Emulsion on Mesh Film has been made into a screen stencil is it safe to turn on regular UV lighting. May cause an allergic skin reaction and/or serious eye irritation. Wear protective gloves and eye/face protection.

Q: Are there special storage requirements for film? Will film expire?

A: Film should always be stored flat (or loosely rolled for Oversized Film) in its original, light protective packaging. Film should simply be stored at room temperature (do not expose to extreme heat & do not refrigerate). Film performs best when used within 18 months of purchase.

Q: Can I print designs with more than one color?

A: To achieve this effect will require some extra steps. One way is to make a screen stencil and temporarily block out areas of the design that you don’t want to print with some LOW TACK tape like our red tape in SmallDogPrints’ Complete Screen Printing Kit. Using corner registers on your item, print with the first color, then completely clean and dry your screen stencil. Next, use LOW TACK tape to block out the other areas you don’t want to print and print again making sure to line up your image correctly using your corner registers as a guide.  Another idea is to create multiple screens where each screen is used for each color of the design.

Q: Can I flip my screen stencil over and print on either side?

A: Yes. Screen stencils are reversible. SmallDogPrints does not have one side with a dedicated “sticky back” so our screen stencils are extremely versatile. Ie. An image of say, a squirrel facing left, can quickly be flipped and used so that the squirrel could also face right.

Q: How do I secure a screen stencil so that it does not shift when printing?

A: Depending on the size of the screen stencil and how many prints you need, there are various ways to secure them. Generally speaking, for tiny stencils where only one print is being made, the edges of a screen can simply be held in place with fingers while ink is being applied by a brush, Qtip, old gift card, etc.  For larger stencils where only one print is being made, it is advised to secure the screen with painter’s tape around its edges so that the screen lays flat and is smooth. Lastly, for repeat printing with larger screens, secure one of our black, plastic, reusable frames to the front of your custom screen stencil with either double sided sticky tape OR spray the black, plastic, reusable frame with some repositionable spray adhesive on one side of the frame so it will stick to the front of your custom screen stencil.  Then, tape the frame to a hard, FLAT surface with no bumps in it (i.e. a clean craft table) with tape on only one side creating a “hinge” effect (click here). This is great for repeat printing of ceramic tile, greeting cards and other items.  Please refer to our video tutorials for Printing with Screens (click here).

Q: What type of ink can I use to print with my screen stencils?

A: Thick ink always works best with screen stencils as it is the easiest to control and provides great coverage. Ink or paint which has the viscosity of mayonnaise works best. Water based acrylics, fabric ink and others can easily be thickened by leaving a small portion out uncovered. Also, adding tiny amounts of corn starch and blending well can help to thicken ink and paint for more immediate use. Again, be sure to blend well.

For ceramics, try adding some Silkscreen Medium to underglaze to thicken it up (Mayco has a good Silkscreen Medium here). About 1/2 tsp. of Silkscreen Medium for every 2 oz. of underglaze works well. Again, make sure to blend well so that there are no lumps! This may take awhile but smooth ink, paint, underglaze, etc. will be well worth the extra effort! I have a video tutorial here).

Q: How many times will I be able to print with a screen stencil?

A: This depends on how you care for and store your screen stencils.  After printing, care should be taken to gently clean screen stencils in water and to not allow ink, glaze, etc. to dry in screens. If you are printing with multiple screens and find you don't have time to clean them right away after printing, try keeping a bowl of cool water out on your craft table. Make sure it's large enough to place your ink filled screens in it so they lay flat and are completely submerged in water. They can hang out in the water until you have time to clean them! The water should keep the ink from drying in the tiny mesh openings in your screens and ruining them. Keep in mind, water softens the emulsion in your screen stencils so don't forget about them in there!!  Also remember to GENTLY clean them with a SOFT sponge when you finally do have a minute to clean them! :)

Also, screens need to dry FLAT with the dark orange side facing up. Reposition screens often so they do not dry to your work surface. 

TIP . . . a long time ago I decided I was using way too many paper towels in my studio so I bought a large, canvas painter's tarp at Lowe's here. I washed, dried and ironed the tarp so it would lay FLAT on my craft table in my studio (like a table cloth). I LOVE this set up so much! No longer do I need so many paper towels and the canvas painter's tarp is a wonderful surface on which to dry screen stencils!!

SmallDogPrints uses our own screens to print our white stay flat envelopes as well as our black plastic baggies. Our screen stencils have been used 100’s of times and are still going strong!

Q: What’s a good way to store all of my screen stencils?

A: A simple 3-ring binder with clear plastic sleeves seems to be the preferred way for our artists to keep their screen stencils organized. 

Here’s an Amazon link: https://amzn.to/3glQBPa.


Volume Pricing

Q: Are there discounts for bulk purchases?

A: Yep! Be sure to first create an account with us.  Then click here for more information.

Q: Can I resell film to students, fellow artists, etc?

A: Of course! We want as many artists loving our products and process as possible. Show them how fun and easy it is to screen print!

Q: Can I resell custom screen stencils I’ve made with your product?

A: Sure! We are simply the art supplier. You are the artist. It’s our mission to empower you to create and to turn the ordinary into EXTRAordinary — so go for it!


SHIPPING & RETURNS

SHIPPING & RETURNS

Q: How long will it take to receive my order?

A: Within the USA all film is shipped USPS Priority Mail and all kits are shipped USPS Ground (due to trace amounts of mercury found in bulbs).

Orders are usually delivered within 4 to 10 business days of being placed. We will notify you within 24 hours if items you ordered are out of stock or are on back order.

Q: Can I pay extra for Expedited Mail?

A: Sure. It’s an add’l +$25 (USA only)

Q: If I live in Canada can I use & order your products?

A: Before adding items with bulbs to your cart, be sure to shop with the CAD$ option selected (for Complete Kit & Light Kit). Shipping to Canada requires +$25 for shipping and handling (expedited shipping not available).

*Please note...Bulbs will be excluded from kits shipped to Canada as our light kit bulbs contain trace amounts of mercury which can only be shipped via ground transportation within the USA.

Even so, we have many artists who live in Canada and love using our film to make custom screen stencils.

*Please note... Canadian residents will need to experiment with exposure options (i.e. bulb type, distance, and time) for best results.

Q: I changed my mind, can I cancel my order?

A: Order cancellation can only be made BEFORE shipment. Once shipment occurs, the return policy is in effect. For orders that are cancelled in transit or delivery is refused, the customer is responsible for actual shipping and handling charges.

Q: Can I return my order?

A: Email us within 24 hours of receipt with your reason for the return; you will be issued a return authorization (RA) number if a determination of return eligibility and requirements are met. Returns will not be accepted without a valid Return Authorization (RA) number. No return should be requested after 15 days of the original purchase date.  In addition, RA numbers issued will expire within 15 days of issuance. Any return we receive without a valid RA number will be documented and rejected or subject to a restocking fee at SmallDogPrints' sole discretion.

Products must be in the original packaging and shipped securely. Products must be free from damage of any type, including, but not limited to: dents, scratches, cracks, abuse, defacement or indication.

Q: I received my order with a missing part, what do I do?

A: Oh shoot! We apologize for the inconvenience. Please contact us within 24 hours of receipt at: returns@smalldogprints.com.